Children face “epic withdrawal” from screens once the pandemic ends”
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician who focuses on the use of mobile tech by children at the University of Michigan, says that if she had known how long these lockdowns would last, her advice would have been different. “I probably would have encouraged families to turn off Wi-Fi except during school hours so kids don’t feel tempted every moment, night and day. The longer they’ve been doing a habituated behavior, the harder it’s going to be to break the habit.”
Based on data from Qustodio, a company that tracks usage of devices by those 4 to 15 years-old, screen time doubled last May on a year-over-year basis. In March and April, children in the U.S. spent on average 97 minutes a day viewing YouTube videos. Not only was that up from an average of 57 minutes a day in February, it was up 100% year-over-year. Similar trends were seen for YouTube in England and Spain.
Even those age 10 and younger are spending hours per day playing games like Fortnite, using short-form video app TikTok, and messaging app Snapchat. Another online game that is very popular among kids is Robolox. Users can program their own games and play games developed by others. The company that developed Roblox says, “Roblox is a global platform where millions of people gather together every day to imagine, create, and share experiences with each other in immersive, user-generated 3D worlds. … Roblox is free to download and free to play on all modern smartphones, tablets, computers, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive.” Popular among kids 9 to 12 years of age, the app drew 31.1 million users a day over the first nine months of last year, up 82% year-over-year.
Are children destined to be permanently addicted to their devices? Not exactly says Stanford’s Humphreys who says that disciplined time away from screens can help children disconnect. It won’t be easy because the devices are used for school, to maintain a social life, and more. The Doctor points out that children now associate their devices with pleasure making it nearly impossible to disconnect the kids from their phones, tablets, game consoles, and televisions.